UMNS Photo by Amy Forbus
The main question that had United Methodists talking at a recent gathering of African-American church leaders from the South Central Jurisdiction was: “How does the Call to Action affect African-American churches?”
The Call to Action is an effort initiated by the Council of Bishops and Connectional Table with the charge to help The United Methodist Church better fulfill its mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. The denomination’s Connectional Table has submitted legislation to the 2012 General Conference that, if passed, would consolidate agencies and allow the redistribution of up to $60 million in general church funds.
The Rev. C.E. McAdoo, superintendent of the Southwest District of the Arkansas Annual (regional) Conference, urged the more than 50 participants at Can We Talk? to keep an open mind.
“If we come in with all the answers, why do we need to be anywhere?” he told those meeting at United Methodist-related Philander Smith College in Little Rock.
Illinois Area Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, a leader in the Call to Action process, helped outline the recommendations.
The proposals include the integration of nine of the denomination’s 13 general agencies into four offices, plus a shared services office. Background information with the proposals says the four offices were designed with the denomination’s Four Areas of Focus in mind. Those areas of focus adopted by the 2008 General Conference are:
- Improving global health
- Engaging in ministry with the poor
- Creating new places for new people and revitalizing existing congregations
- Developing principled Christian leaders for the church and the world
The plan is for the offices to be subsumed under a new United Methodist Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry. Legislation submitted to General Conference calls for the center to have a 15-member board. That new board would oversee general funds that support mission and ministry.
Concerns over change
A significant concern among Can We Talk? participants was whether the smaller size of the proposed new leadership structure would allow the voices of ethnic and racial minorities to be heard. Leaders of the five groups that represent the denomination’s ethnic constituencies and General Conference delegates in the Northeastern Jurisdiction expressed similar worries.
Illinois Area Bishop Gregory V. Palmer (left) and Danita Waller Paige of Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church in Little Rock were among Can We Talk? worship leaders at the South Central jurisdictional gathering focused on the African-American church.
“I’m not hung up on the number,” Palmer said. “The focus on the ‘15’ is potentially delusional.”
He said the new proposed structure includes about 230 leaders, roughly one-third of the number of directors now on the church’s general boards and agencies.